Expats confused by overseas inheritance laws

Britons who have properties abroad are being warned that it may take years for overseas inheritances to be resolved due to complex legal frameworks.

New research from the Edinburgh-based probate firm Title Research reveals that it can take as long as three years for a deceased individual's overseas estate to be redistributed among heirs, incurring financial hardship and unnecessary stress. Some of the most popular places for holiday homes, such as France and Spain, have such different legal systems to the UK that experienced solicitors often struggle to have assets returned to the UK quickly.

Common problems included the widespread system of "forced heirship" for property, which mean a proportion of the deceased's estate must be passed to a blood relative, as opposed to a spouse. Language difficulties and unfamiliarity with local law were also blamed.

According to Title Research, France, Greece, South Africa and Spain all qualified as "very demanding" countries to get assets back from after a death. Turkey, Thailand and Malaysia fell into the "demanding"category and Bulgaria, Sweden and Canada fell into the "least demanding" category.

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